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Lions Roar : March 2016
When she began teaching, Salzberg was terrified of public speaking and made Goldstein speak for her. “All these women were going up to Joseph and yelling at him, saying, ‘Why won’t you let Sharon give a talk? Why won’t you let her have a voice?’ ” Salzberg laughs. “He’d say, ‘I’d be so happy if she’d give a talk!’ ” Salzberg says she took refuge from her fear in a kind of dogma- tism. “I would quote things from the teachings as though they were my personal direct knowledge, rather than just saying, ‘This is my understanding of what the Buddha said.’ I had to take a big journey in terms of teaching.” It was only when she decided to talk about metta that she began to find her true voice as a teacher. Salzberg and her friends began teaching and leading medi- tation retreats all over the country, sleeping on couches or floors. Then someone said, “Why don’t you start a retreat cen- ter? It would be a place where the energy of people practicing together doesn’t dissipate at the end of the retreat.” So Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, and Jacqueline Man- dell-Schwartz founded the Insight Meditation Society, one of the most important institutions in Western Buddhism. They found a former Catholic novitiate on eighty acres of land in Barre, Massachusetts, that was for sale. The $150,000 price tag was steep, but with donations, personal loans, and a $50,000 mortgage from the owner, they were able to buy it. When I ask if she had faith their efforts would work, Salzberg laughs. “No, not at all. Our mantra actually the first year was, ‘We can always close in a year.’ But it worked. It worked so amazingly.” Above: “You can’t fail at meditation,” Salzberg tells ABC News anchor Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, in a panel discussion cosponsored by the Lion’s Roar Foundation. Below: Forty-four years after the famed Goenka course they attended together, Salzberg joins Ram Dass at the eighth annual “Open Your Heart in Paradise” retreat in Hawaii. PHOTOBYLILYCUSHMANFRINDELVIDEOCAPTUREBYEDWARDBOYCE LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 70